Industrial Property and Copyrights in India

In the modern corporate world we live in, constant innovation is the key to very organization’s success. But it is hard to classify and assign responsibilities or good ideas. Such is the nature of business. Every employee should be made accountable for idea generation. But how can we avoid duplication and forgery by unscrupulous competitors or by those out to make a quick buck? How can we safeguard our ideas? Any expression of an original idea is Intellectual Property (IP) and is an asset that may be used to generate revenue. Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) refers to the right of any party to safeguard and legally prevent others from using an original brand, trade secrets or inventions.

There are two main divisions of IP: Industrial Property and Copyrights and related Rights. While Industrial Property can be further broken down into patents, trademarks, Industrial designs and geographical indications, copyrights refer to artistic expressions such as paintings, sculptures, books or music. A CEO of a major international pharmaceutical company is said to have told that ‘They (Indian Pharma companies) should not steal others’ innovations; they should create technology for themselves’. While this statement has been widely criticized by Indian trade bodies and the industry alike, there can be no doubt that enforcement of IP laws has always been vital. Right from duplicating copies of international bestsellers to copying medicines and music piracy, we have seen widespread and unlawful misuse of intellectual Assets. But today, experts feel, the new patent protection regime in India has ensured that the copycat crisis is now under control. After India’s full compliance with the TRIPS (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights) agreement, IP protection laws in India have developed teeth. The government has also been modifying and amending laws regularly.

Organizations like Wipro, TCS, Ranbaxy have filed several patent applications over the last few years. This signified a paradigm shift for the industry from manufacturing generic goods. India has become the next big IP creation powerhouse. IP creation will spawn more jobs and give organizations and scientific institutions in India a position of command in the market. If more and more IPs are created and commercialized, it will definitely benefit the government and homegrown industry by making advanced technology available locally.

The Pharma industry has been at the fore front of intellectual property creation as compared to IT or other sectors because research spending on drugs and Pharma has increased five fold in recent times. Also, it addresses a larger area of the population. Another opportunity that companies need to look out for is IP licensing. Licensing involves sharing intellectual property with another company for a financial consideration.

The semiconductor industry also has profited from the new IP climate. Today India is recognized for its fast expanding design expertise in semiconductors. However, creating IP awareness is very important to gain the competitive edge. Indian Semiconductor Association (ISA) is focusing on promoting semiconductor start ups in the country and is working with Government agencies to create incubation that would not only provide the enabling design infrastructure but also offer support in filing of patents.

However, companies have run into frustrating challenges because of the time frame that it takes to get a patent. Patent filing itself especially with drafting the patent application requires expertise. The time duration from filing to grant and take anywhere up to 4 years, and a patent can go through several iterations of office actions’ before it is granted. Another challenge is to watch your own house. More judicial awareness is also required.

Today the important thing is for India, as an emerging knowledge market, to encourage further research and development, especially in electronics, IT and biotech that will generate ideas worth patenting.

We lack the innovative infrastructure required to even be a significant player, let alone be the IP capital. Compare for example, our track record in paper publications, conference held, Ph.D students journals published, editorial members, paper reviewer contributors to standards and so on, we lag behind severely. Despite this, the number of Indian patent applications filed has increased four times over the past fifteen years. Nearly 800 Indian companies submitted international patent applications to the World intellectual Property. A lot of India’s future growth will come from IP and despite all the challenges, organizations seem fully prepared to rise to the occasion.